Saturday, 16 March 2013

RollerCoaster Run 2013

5:15 on a Saturday morning and the alarm goes off. Far too early for some. 

Then I look at the course elevatation map for todays Rollercoaster run: 

Yes, this trail run was to be one wild ride - coasting up and down Mt Dandenong about an hour out of Melbourne. 

What was I thinking. If this is not one of the toughest half marathons going around then I don't know what is. With a goal to run a sub 1:30 on a flat course, I was aiming to run 2:20-2:30 on this one. So, nearly an hour longer over the same distance... Well, it is actually 21.5km so that might explain it. 

With the bag packed and the trailrocs (my review here) on I hit the road at 5:35 and arrived at Sky High @ Mt Dandenong at 5:55 - much quicker than I anticipated. The great short cut (and fully legal mind you) got me there in record time. On arrival I could see the tent set up and the music was already pumping, a great atmosphere. 
My new Inov-8 t-shirt at the start

Before long I saw a few of my fellow Dandy Runners and was getting excited about the race. I picked up my tags and got sorted before the anticipated start. The view over Melbourne was stunning, my pics don't do it justice. As the light grew so did the buzz. Numerous prerace announcements ensured we all knew where we were going and it was just a matter of literally waiting for the sun to come up. As well planned as the whole thing had been so far, why couldn't they have ordered a clear day? The covering clouds meant that we were waiting for about an additional 15 minutes before we could take off. Would my previous weeks hill training run pay off?

Finally, the nod was given and we shuffled to the line. Hear rate monitor on, GPS watch on, 3,2,1 go go go. I took of at a leisurely pace as I knew that the first 4kms or so was down hill. With the thumping of feet on the road we took off and after 300m rounded the corner onto the trails. The first section was a steep descent on the technical Kyeema track - rocks, roots, branches and fairly loose gravel. We descended for a few minutes before levelling out for a good stretch along a nicely made trail before hitting the first of the crazies. Crazy steep, inch thick dust that made it not only hard to know what was under your feet, but damn hard to see as well! This section was called the zig zag track... After a few hundred meters the dust settled and I was able to find my rhythm and early place in the run. Hopefully somewhere top 50ish. This lead to the start of about 2km of down hill on the trail, a nice wide section of track that made running easy. I got chatting to quite a few different runners during this section as I sort of bounced from one person to another as we went up and down the terrain. It was very enjoyable. 

We soon came to the first hill climb - Dodds track. As we turned off the road and onto the trail I went to round the safety gate and leapt for one of the stones that stop the trail bikes. Well, they stopped me flat. Literally as I missed my step and landed flat on my face. No injuries save my ego. After the gasps of all around turned to the are you okays I continued on. This was a fairly steep incline and I was able to reel in two or three runners ahead of me. At this stage I was feeling good until the track took it's next turn - up a serious little incline into a single man track Within 50m most runners were walking so I took a gamble and kept running. Light on my toes, power from the calves I picked of about 10 or so runners before finally giving in about 2/3 of the way up. Hey, everyone else was walking so I was not going to lose any places. Finally the track peaked (well, in a slightly less painful incline kind of way) and we commenced running again. A quick check of the HR and I found it was 173! 

The trail levelled out and widened and we ran on. As it took a turn downwards down school track I picked up a few other runners and got chatting again and the ks seemed to race on past. This section was quite undulating and got me thinking that is certainly was a 'rollercoaster' course. I really enjoyed this section of the trail and before we knew it we were running Doongalla Rd and at the checkpoint. I took on a cup of Coke and rejoined the run, almost missing the electronic timer point. Again I got running with another runner a we chatted briefly as we went through the scenic and reasonably flattish Edgar, golf course and stables tracks. I passed a few and had the first of the 43km runners pass me along this stretch before a runner picked me up and we got running together. At this stage I was glad for a mate. The converastion was easy and the pace he was running at kept me at 160-170bpm and really moving along, quicker than I would have run by myself at this stage of the race. Bills track took us back to Edgar track and the incline began. We pushed through together and hit the Camilia track. At this stage the incline really began to rise and we went our ways as he took backed off the pace a little.

A huge kudos to the organisers at this point. The trail was exceptionally well marked all the way. The few times I was running solo and came to a turn, I knew exactly where to go.

I pushed on an was enjoying the run until the 16km region when my right calf began to twitch. Well, I was not happy and I told him so. Not now you devil I told him, and with all sorts of self encouragement and a change in gait for a while and it seemed to subside. I soon hit link track and my mate caught and passed me as I was really happy with my time at this stage and was thinking just keep cruising and you'll crack 2:10-2:15! From Singleton the track took a steeper gradient and I picked up with one of the female runners and had a great chat with her. We were both finding it hard be the conversation kept us at a great pace and we got through this section without walking. 

At about 19km we parted ways as I pushed on - she was using this as a training run and was running again this afternoon! I also found out she almost won the 43km last year so was an exceptional runner. As I rounded the corner to near the end of Old Mountain Rd I passed another couple of runners and was feeling great. Round the sharp corner to the 20km aid station and into the bush. Literally. This was Trig track, a 500m insane technical section. I literally had to grab a tree to stop toppling over the edge. On a fresh set of legs I would have loved this. After 20 massive kms I felt like I was falling off the side of the track. I don't think I was but that was the feeling. And it was steep. I somehow emerged from the scrub and that's when I was hit. Both legs, major calf cramps. Hmmm, 20kms, Two Bays readers will know that this was when I hit the wall in that run, and at about the two hour mark. It was nearly soul destroying. Less than 1km from the finish and I didn't know if I was going to make it. I pulled over and pushed a tree and stretched out the calves and managed another 200m. Fortunately the steep track ahead meant that other runners were also fatigued and walking. With mind over matter being the mantra I ran a 100m, walked a 100m before I got smacked down again. The place I was holding was slipping but I had to finish. I stretched out again, sacrificing time for sanity. I hobbled another 100 to the top of the hill and with 500m to go up on the same crazy hill that we started on I walked on. I was supported by fellow runners, the same ones I had run with earlier so that was an amazing feeling and with their strength I walked up the last section. 

It was devastating. I knew that I could out run these guys had I had the legs - my HR was sky high all the race and I had learned that I could maintain a much higher threshold than I thought I could. I would have run them down. At as fast a walk as I could muster, me and a fellow runner rounded that same first corner which was also our last. I dug as deep as I could and ran/hobbled/no ran the last 200m. In as much pain as I have ever been in, the emotions, adrenaline and seeing Peter from the Dandy runners got me over the line - where the unlucky medal giver got an emotional hug as I collapsed.

One day I'll be on the podium

I had done it. 21.5km, the hardest 21.5km I'd run and there I was, collapsed on the ground. Lying in the rain.  I assured people I was ok and somehow got up. My calves were burnt out, my knees tight like you would not believe and my quads burning. I found Peter from the Dandy runners and thanked him for all the support over the last few weekends and forced myself to hobble around for a while. After 4-5 minutes I was feeling much, much better and was beginning to walk normally again. As I headed back to the car I thought about what I had achieved. In all honesty, I'm damn proud of my self. 

The final figures. For 2:20.59 my heart rate had averaged 161 BPM and maxed at 193. I had reached my theoretical limits and pushed beyond them. 

I placed 37th over the line and 32nd male. I wanted to run 2:20-2:30, tick. I wanted to place top 50, tick. I wanted to finish top 10%, with some quick maths I finished in about the top 12%. Near enough to three big ticks. 

This is one happy fish. 

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